Shintarō Ishihara

is a Japanese author, politician and the governor of Tokyo since 1999.

Early life and artistic career

Shintarō was born in Kobe. His father Kiyoshi was an employee, later a general manager, of a shipping company. Shintarō grew up in Zushi, a beach city, where he started sailing. He had a younger brother named Yujiro.

In 1951, his father died suddenly at his office. In 1952, he entered Hitotsubashi University, and graduated in 1956. Just two months before graduation, Shintarō won the Akutagawa Prize (Japan's most prestigious literary prize) for the novel . His brother Yujiro played a supporting role in the screen adaptation of the novel, and the two soon became the center of a youth-oriented cult.

In the early 1960s, he concentrated on writing, including plays, novels, and a musical version of Treasure Island. He was involved in directing, ran a theater company, traveled to the North Pole, raced his own yacht, and crossed South America on a motorcycle. From 1967 to 1968, he covered the Vietnam War as a reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun.

One of his later novels, Lost Country (1982), speculated about Japan under the control of the Soviet Union.

Legislative career

In 1968, Ishihara ran as a candidate on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) national slate for the House of Councillors. He placed first on the LDP list with an unprecedented three million votes. After four years in the upper house, Ishihara ran for the House of Representatives representing the second district of Tokyo, and again won election.

As a Diet member, Ishihara was often critical of the LDP. In 1973, he joined with thirty other LDP lawmakers in the anti-communist Seirankai or "Blue Storm Group"; the group gained notoriety in the media for sealing a pledge of unity in their own blood.

Ishihara ran for Governor of Tokyo in 1975 but lost to the popular Socialist incumbent Ryokichi Minobe. He returned to the House of Representatives afterward, and worked his way up the party's internal ladder, serving as Director-General of the Environment Agency under Takeo Fukuda (1976) and Minister of Transport under Noboru Takeshita (1989). During the 1980s, Ishihara was a highly visible and popular LDP figure, but unable to win enough internal support to form a true faction and move up the national political ladder.

In 1989, shortly after losing a highly contested race for the party presidency, Ishihara came to the attention of the West through his book, , co-authored with then-Sony chairman Akio Morita. The book called on his fellow countrymen to stand up to the United States.

Ishihara dropped out of national politics in 1995, ending a 25-year career in the Diet. In 1999, he ran on an independent platform and was elected governor of Tokyo.


Ishihara is married to Noriko Ishihara and has four sons. Members of the House of Representatives Nobuteru Ishihara and Hirotaka Ishihara are his eldest and third sons; actor and weatherman Yoshizumi Ishihara is his second son. His youngest son, Nobuhiro Ishihara, is a jetsetting painter involved in accusations of nepotism Nationally famous deceased actor Yujiro Ishihara was his younger brother.

Books written by Ishihara

  • Taiyo no kisetsu (太陽の季節) , Season of the Sun, 1956 : Akutagawa Prize, The Best New Author of the Year Prize.
  • Kurutta kajitsu (狂った果実), Crazed fruit, 1956.
  • Umi no tizu (海の地図), Map of the sea, 1958.
  • Seinen no ki (青年の樹) , Tree of the youth.
  • Gesshoku (月蝕), Lunar eclipse, 1959.
  • Seishun to wa nanda (青春とはなんだ), What is the youth ? .
  • Oinaru umi e (大いなる海へ), To the great sea, 1965.
  • Kaeranu umi (還らぬ海), 1966.
  • Kaseki no mori(化石の森), Petrified forest, 1970 : Minister of Education Prize
  • Yabanjin no daigaku (野蛮人の大学), University of barbarian .
  • 'No' to ieru nihon (「NO」と言える日本) The Japan That Can Say No (in collaboration with Akio Morita), 1989.
  • Soredemo 'No' to ieru nihon. Nichibeikan no konponmondai (それでも「NO」と言える日本 ―日米間の根本問題―) The Japan That Can Say No. Principle problem of the Japon-US relations, (in collaboration with Shouichi Watanabe and Kazuhisa Ogawa), 1990.
  • 'Chichi' nakushite kuni tatazu (“父”なくして国立たず) , 1997.
  • Hisai (秘祭), Secret festival .
  • Seikan (生還) , Return alive, 1988.
  • Waga jinsei no toki no toki (わが人生の時の時) , The sublime moment of my life, 1990.
  • Kaze ni tsuite no kioku (風についての記憶) , My memory about the wind, 1994.
  • Ototo (弟) , Yonger brother, 1996 : Mainichibungakusho Special Prize.
  • Sensenfukoku (宣戦布告「NO」と言える日本経済 ―アメリカの金融奴隷からの解放―), Proclamation of war, 1998.
  • Hokekyou wo ikiru (法華経を生きる), To live the Lotus Sutra, 1998.
  • Seisan (聖餐) , 1999.
  • Kokka naru genei (国家なる幻影) , The nation, an illusion , 1999.
  • Boku wa kekkon shinai (僕は結婚しない) I will not marry, 2001.
  • Ima, 'Tamashii' no kyôiku (いま「魂」の教育), Now, 'spirit' education, 2001.
  • Oi te koso jinsei (老いてこそ人生) , 2002.

Translation in English

  • The Japan That Can Say No, Simon & Schuster, 1991, ISBN 0671726862. Touchstone Books, 1992, ISBN 0671758535. Cassette version ISBN 0671735713. Disk version, 1993, ISBN 1882690230.

Political views

Ishihara is generally described as one of Japan's most prominent "right-wing" politicians. He has also generated controversy due to his support for Japanese nationalism, frequent visits to Yasukuni Shrine and several displays of alleged racism, historical revisionism and sexism. He sometimes implied that he had little affection for Chinese and Koreans. He apparently declares that he is attached to Taiwan (Republic of China) in a possible move to irritate mainland China regarding the Chinese claim of sovereignty over the Taiwanese territory. He has also generated heat from PETA for the reduction of the 37,000 crows that populated Tokyo.

Policies as governor

Among Ishihara's moves as governor, he:

  • Cut metropolitan spending projects, including plans for a new Toei Subway line, and proposed the sale or leasing out of many metropolitan facilities.
  • Imposed a new tax on banks' gross profits (rather than net profits).
  • Imposed a new hotel tax based on occupancy.
  • Imposed restrictions on the operation of diesel-powered vehicles, following a highly publicized event where he held up a bottle of diesel soot before cameras and reporters.
  • Proposed opening casinos in the Odaiba district.
  • Declared in 2005 that Tokyo would bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which discouraged a bid by Fukuoka.
  • Set up the ShinGinko Tokyo bank to lend to SMEs in Tokyo. This bank has lost approximately 1 billion dollars worth of taxpayer's money through inadequate customer risk assessments.

Foreign relations

Ishihara has often been critical of Japan's foreign policy as being non-assertive. Regarding Japan's relationship with the US, he stated that "The country I dislike most in terms of U.S.-Japan ties is Japan, because it's a country that can't assert itself."

Ishihara has also long been critical of the PRC government. He invited the Dalai Lama and the President of the Republic of China Lee Teng-hui to Tokyo, which agitated the government of the People's Republic of China. Ishihara is deeply interested in the North Korean abduction issue, and is calling for economic sanctions against North Korea. Following Ishihara's campaign to bid Tokyo for the 2016 Summer Olympics, he has since eased his criticism of the Chinese government. He accepted an invitation to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and was selected as a torch-bearer for the Japan leg of the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay.


On April 9, 2000, in a speech before a Self-Defense Forces group, Ishihara publicly stated that atrocious crimes have been committed repeatedly by illegally entered sangokujin (Japanese: 三国人 (third country national); a term commonly viewed as derogatory) and foreigners, and speculated that in the event a natural disaster struck the Tokyo area, they would be likely to cause civil disorder. His comment invoked calls for his resignation, demands for an apology and fears among residents of Korean descent in Japan. Regarding this statement, Ishihara later said:

I referred to the "many sangokujin who entered Japan illegally." I thought some people would not know that word so I paraphrased it and used gaikokujin, or foreigners. But it was a newspaper holiday so the news agencies consciously picked up the sangokujin part, causing the problem.

... After World War II, when Japan lost, the Chinese of Taiwanese origin and people from the Korean Peninsula persecuted, robbed and sometimes beat up Japanese. It's at that time the word was used, so it was not derogatory. Rather we were afraid of them.

... There's no need for an apology. I was surprised that there was a big reaction to my speech. In order not to cause any misunderstanding, I decided I will no longer use that word. It is regrettable that the word was interpreted in the way it was.

Much of the criticism of this statement involved the historical significance of the term: sangokujin historically referred to ethnic Chinese and Koreans, working in Japan, several thousand of whom were killed by mobs of Japanese people following the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923.

On February 20, 2006, Ishihara also said: "Roppongi is now virtually a foreign neighborhood. Africans — I don't mean African-Americans — who don't speak English are there doing who knows what. This is leading to new forms of crime such as car theft. We should be letting in people who are intelligent.

Other controversial statements

In 1990, Ishihara stated in a Playboy interview that the Rape of Nanking was a fiction, claiming, "People say that the Japanese made a holocaust but that is not true. It is a story made up by the Chinese. It has tarnished the image of Japan, but it is a lie. He continued to defend this statement in the uproar that ensued. He has also backed the film The Truth about Nanjing, which argues that the Nanking Massacre was propaganda.

Ishihara stated in a 2001 interview with women's magazine Shukan Josei that he subscribed to a theory that "old women who live after they have lost their reproductive function are useless and are committing a sin," adding that he "couldn't say this as a politician." He was criticized in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly for these comments, but responded that the criticism was driven by "tyrant" "old women.

During an inauguration of a university building in 2004, Ishihara stated that French is unqualified as an international language because it is "a language in which nobody can count," referring to the counting system in French, which he believed to be based on units of twenty rather than ten (as is the case in Japanese and English). The statement led to a lawsuit from several language schools in 2005. Ishihara subsequently responded to comments that he did not disrespect French culture by professing his love of French literature on Japanese TV news.

See also


External links

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